Around 65 people packed the chambers of View Royal’s town hall for its latest council meeting to discuss tax waivers for mixed-income housing planned near Thetis Lake.
Those opposed to the development echoed some similar refrains: most acknowledged the need to provide affordable rental housing in town and said they supported of the idea of it but questioned the location and argued the nearly million-dollar tax break was too lenient.
Thetis Lake Apartments submitted an application to create 152 multi-family residential units at near-market or below-market rates on 13 acres of land on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway.
The resident to speak first said he supported the waiver and claimed after gaining experience while working in government for 15 years that the development is the “exact model that works.”
“It’s so important that we have all demographics of a society in our communities,” he said, adding that “opportunities like this…don’t come often.”
The location “doesn’t make sense,” another speaker argued. Cars having one road leading into the parking lots of two six-storey rental buildings was not enough, she noted.
“I’ve been friends of many people looking for affordable housing. This doesn’t seem the right fit,” the resident said. She also noted the lack of transportation options would be of concern to the future residents.
“Six hundred metres to a bus stop?” asked a resident who said she lived nearby. She wondered whether children and people with mobility issues could be expected to walk that far during the winter.
Applicant Mike Baier said developers Limona Group regularly receives calls from people inquiring on whether there are any vacancies in the affordable apartment building. “It’s their choice,” he said, noting some would rather live near “beautiful” trails and bodies of water than have a grocery store “across the street.”
Baier stressed getting this far in the development stage takes a long time. “If it doesn’t happen here and now, for some reason, it will not happen anytime in the near future in View Royal, we all know that. This process has taken 18 months so far.”
He added, “Most wanna see affordable housing come along. They really don’t want it in their backyard.”
Council deferred its decision on the bylaw to waive about $926,000 in development cost charges until a later date.
Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean spoke about the housing affordability crisis affecting BC, adding the housing crisis has been left to “escalate for so long.” Apartments in the Greater Victoria area have a 1.2 per cent vacancy rate, according to a 2018 CMHC rental market report.
Dean said the costs relating to the project were scrutinized and formulated in order to sustain it for decades into the future.
“For a proposal like this to have reached this stage, it’s had to go through 18 months of processing, with a lot of public servants at BC housing with a lot of expertise as well. There’s due diligence at every stage of the process.”
The town’s chief administrative officer was at one point asked to clarify that the DCC money could only be spent on infrastructure relating to the development itself. One resident noted the DCC could be used as a reserve fund to pay for repairs stemming from increased use of roads, water and sewage in the area from the development.
Another resident cited provincial DCC “Best Practices Guide” for local government responsibilities that states DCC bylaw must take into account whether the proposed DCC will “deter development” or “‘discourage the development of reasonably priced housing or reasonably priced serviced land.”
“You can’t lose the money you haven’t collected; you can’t lose money you don’t collect in taxes” he added.